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63 tablatures for Suffocation


Suffocation - Effigy Of The Forgotten (10/10) - USA - 1991

Genre: Death Metal
Label: Roadrunner Records
Playing time: 37:27
Band homepage: Suffocation

Tracklist:

  1. Liege Of Inveracity
  2. Effigy Of The Forgotten
  3. Infecting The Crypts
  4. Seeds Of The Suffering
  5. Habitual Infamy
  6. Reincremation
  7. Mass Obliteration
  8. Involuntary Slaughter
  9. Jesus Wept  
Suffocation - Effigy Of The Forgotten

The sounds heard on this monstrous beast of pioneering technical brutality could be summed up in a number of ways. A hammer smash induced pile of skull fragments, a rotten carcass of venomous rage, or perhaps a decrepit field of battle dead with the gods of war howling their glee at the carnage they’ve caused. But to understand the methodology/alchemy at work here, the best picture to paint would be that of a Death Metal piñata. Take all of the vile sweetness of the Teutonic Thrash scene embodied in KREATOR and DESTRUCTION and place it in little plastic wrappers, add to it the morose gutturalness of MORBID ANGEL in its most concentrated form, and the speed and fury of SLAYER and wrap it inside a nicely decorated shell that represents the generally accepted viewpoint of Death Metal at that time and Metal in general. Now picture the 5 guys who make up SUFFOCATION each taking a baseball bat and proceeding to pummel the hapless thing in front of every fan of Death Metal in 1991, until the last piece of extreme Metal candy lays on the ground.

 

Though there was definitely some stuff out there at this time in the Grind scene ala NAPALM DEATH that was heavily comparable to this in terms of brutality, this is basically the pioneering album that laid the ground work for the brutal side of Metal being technical. The only other real example that comes to mind is CANNIBAL CORPSE’S “Eaten Back To Life”, but while that album sort of came off as a Thrash album with brutal vocals, this ratchets up the aggression further, to the point where the beginnings of what led to what became Brutal Death Metal as we know it today come into view. It still keeps enough of the Thrash roots of the style fixed in place, particularly in the riff department, to avoid the seemingly random nature that CRYPTOPSY would embody. The drums also lack the overt, masturbatory showmanship that has since crept its way into the style and though quite fast and technical, actually keep some sort of a beat.

 

The area where the band really excels is in the guitar department. The character of each riff is darkened significantly by down tuning, but avoids turning into a muddy mess without any punch. Bits and pieces of “Reign In Blood” and “Pleasure To Kill” can be heard in almost all of these songs, though exaggerated to the point that on most of these songs some effort is needed to pick out the specific areas. The lead guitar work is basically Kerry King on steroids, ripping through a series of chromatic scale runs and wild whammy bar flutters like the wailings of a maddened banshee. Some of it relies a bit more on symmetrical patterns than the SLAYER axe man/icon, but the same spirit of upstaging a technically impressive rhythm section with a twice as technical display two or three octaves higher endures, and at a respectable duration of a good 20 to 30 seconds like most old school bands, rather than the ridiculously short and unmemorable lead passages that pass for solos today.

 

The transitional nature of this album from its genre’s Thrash roots remains consistent in the vocal delivery as well. Frank Mullen’s guttural bellows are definitely a step closer to the human frog standard set by Chris Barnes and then perfected by Lord Worm, but they carry a much more percussive quality to them conducive to the riff driven backdrop he’s been given. Basically he succeeds in being guttural enough to avoid becoming an extreme caricature, and much like David Vincent, ends up sounding evil rather than comical. Although his demon grunts are mostly unintelligible, it is also obvious that this band was more interested in a multifaceted approach to lyrics that includes some intellectual takes on society and mankind, rather than simply dwelling only upon the cliché of gore and descriptions of the human anatomy meant to trigger one’s vomit reflex.

 

From start to finish, this is a perfectly straight shot of pure Thrashing brutality, unrelenting and uninterested in trying to adhere to any standard of contrast. There is a level of nuance from song to song, as some like “Seeds Of The Suffering” and “Jesus Wept” are go really close into being SLAYER inspired Death/Thrash, while others like “Involuntary Slaughter” blast away with intensity that reaches closer to “Blasphemy Made Flesh” territory. But there are no quiet sections or any breaks to speak of from the sense of pulsating rage present here that could make the most extreme sounds on MORBID ANGEL’S discography sound tame in comparison. There is also very little emphasis on the bass, which works perfectly for this style as constant interruptions by bass showboating would throw off the solid thudding quality of the arrangement, something which was heavily present and hurt an otherwise decent album in “None So Vile”.

 

Of the several albums put out by this highly respected outfit, this is the one to get, regardless of whether you define yourself as being an old school or new school Death Metal fan. It is one of those few albums that can successfully straddle the divide between both generations and come off as genuine. It’s unique in the sense that it was neither ahead of its time or just a little too late to be “the album” in terms of its genre, but was instead the right album at the right time to keep things interesting, right smack in the middle of the high period of Death Metal’s reign in the early 90s. If you like aggression done intelligently and with a fair amount of virtuosity, look no further than the 9 pieces of brutal ear candy lying below the battered piñata.

(Online March 1, 2009)

Jonathan Smith



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